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Carbon Starvation – A Crisis Of Our Time?

Carbon Starvation – A Crisis Of Our Time?

Are we beginning to see carbon – the fundamental building block of all life – as a pollutant? Instead of demonising carbon as a cause of climate breakdown, we need to restore balance in the natural carbon cycle that has been disrupted by the use of artificial fertilisers. In advance of his upcoming series on farming within planetary boundaries, Stuart Meikle offers a primer on the complex role of carbon in our soils. 

Carbon is everywhere, in us humans, in all animals, birds and aquatic life, in all plant life, in the soil, be it alive or dead, and in the atmosphere. With the agenda increasingly dominated by Climate Change, we could, however, be forgiven for thinking that the only carbon that counts is in the atmosphere. We even count other greenhouse gases, which may not even contain carbon (like nitrous oxide), in terms of carbon (dioxide) equivalents.

As a consequence, are we beginning to see carbon, the fundamental building block of all life, as a pollutant?

In recent months, building upon other published articles, some of which appeared also on the ARC2020 website, I have been researching and thinking about what sustainable food systems look like. They start with the soil. And that becomes more apparent when one considers artificial fertilizers in the context of fossil fuel availability, their physical availability, and their propensity to pollute and emit. Agriculture is beginning a whole new ball game.

When it comes to understanding the vital plant-soil-plant interactions, I would highlight the work of three soils specialists: Dr Christine JonesDr Elaine Ingham and Jon Stika. And there are many others…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

CON26


Up Stories Evia 2021
The IPCC came out with another report today, which is a lead-in to another climate conference, this time in Glasgow in Oct-Nov 2021. All the headlines and reactions are exactly the same as they always are: There is no time to lose!, We have to act now!, but also: There is still hope! Since it’s all the same, I thought I’d repost an article from December 2015, ahead of the Paris conference named COP21. All I had to do was change the number and call this one not CON21 but CON26.

No, we’re not going to act in time, and no, there is no hope to halt the degradation of our planet. It’s all long baked into the cake, and if it wasn’t we’d still not stop it. We can do things as individuals but not as a group, let alone as a species. We cannot change our approach to the problems because we cannot change who we are.

I don’t know what makes me lose faith in mankind faster, the way we destroy our habitat through wanton random killing of everything alive, plants, animals and people, through pollution and climate change and blood-thirsty sheer stupidity, or if it is the way these things are being ‘protested’.

I’m certainly not a climate denier or anything like that, though I do think there are questions people gloss over very easily. And one of those questions has to be that of priorities. Is there anyone who has thought over whether the COP21 stage in Paris is the right one to target in protest, whatever shape it takes? Is there anyone who doesn’t think the ‘leaders’ are laughing out loud in -plush, fine wine and gourmet filled- private about the protests?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Crisis of the Natural World

The Crisis of the Natural World

Mountain Goat, North Cascades National Park. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

The natural world is in a state of crisis, and we are to blame. We are in the midst of the Sixth Extinction, the biggest loss of species in the history of humankind. So many species are facing total annihilation. Nearly one-third of freshwater species are facing extinction. So are 40 percent of amphibians84 percent of large mammals; a third of reef-building corals; and nearly one-third of oak trees. Rhinos and elephants are being gunned down at rates so alarming that they could be completely wiped out from the wild by 2034. There may be fewer than 10 vaquita—a kind of porpoise endemic to Mexico’s Gulf of California—due to illegal fishing nets, pesticides and irrigation. There are 130,000 plant species that could become extinct in our lifetimes. All told, about 28 percent of evaluated plant and animal species across the planet are now at risk of becoming extinct.

The rapid decline in species has occurred in recent years: 60 percent of the planet’s wildlife populations have been lost in just the last 50 years. Scientists warn that in the coming decades, if we don’t take action, more than 1 million species may vanish from the Earth forever.

Our fellow Earthlings are being overhunted, overfished and overharvested for our food, clothing and medicines. And the ones that we don’t kill are losing their homes as we destroy their natural habitats to make space for our farms and cities and to extract fuels, minerals, timber and other resources for human society. And the habitats that we don’t completely eradicate we pollute with a vast array of toxic elements, from pesticides and plastics to carbon dioxidefracking chemicals and invasive species

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A third of global farmland at ‘high’ pesticide pollution risk

A third of global farmland at ‘high’ pesticide pollution risk

Nearly two-thirds  of global agricultural land is at risk of pesticide pollution, a study says
Nearly two-thirds of global agricultural land is at risk of pesticide pollution, a study says

A third of the planet’s agricultural land is at “high risk” of pesticide pollution from the lingering residue of chemical ingredients that can leach into water supplies and threaten biodiversity, according to research published Monday.

The  has soared globally as  has expanded, prompting growing fears over  and calls to cut hazardous chemical use.

Researchers in Australia modelled pollution risk across 168 countries with data on the usage of 92 active pesticide ingredients and found “widespread global  risk”.

They highlighted several acutely vulnerable ecosystems in South Africa, China, India, Australia and Argentina, at the nexus of high pollution risk, high water scarcity and high biodiversity.

The study, published in Nature Geoscience, found that overall 64 percent of global  —approximately 24.5 million square kilometres (9.4 million sq miles)—was at risk of pesticide pollution from more than one active ingredient, and 31 percent is at high risk.

“It is significant because the potential pollution is widespread and some regions at risk also bear high biodiversity and suffer from water scarcity,” said lead author Fiona Tang, of the University of Sydney’s School of Civil Engineering.

Tang said there were a number of factors that would contribute to a region becoming a potential contamination hotspot, including using excessive amounts of pesticides or those containing highly toxic substances.

Some environmental factors may also slow the breakdown of the pesticides into non-toxic substances, like cold temperatures or low soil carbon, while heavy rainfall might also cause high levels of run-off.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Kelly MacNamara, phys.org, pesticides, agriculture, industrial agriculture, modern agriculture, food production, food, pollution

Book and Film Expose the Illusion of “Green” Technology: “Bright Green Lies”

Book and Film Expose the Illusion of “Green” Technology: “Bright Green Lies”

Technology can be and has been beneficial in many ways.  Unfortunately, it’s been disastrous in others.  For example, utility “Smart” Meters have been nothing but trouble for people and the environment in numerous ways including fires and explosions (see 12345).  Ditto on 5G (see 12345).

Book and film, Bright Green Lies expose more examples of unsafe technology that are still audaciously but inaccurately being lauded as “green.”

From Bright Green Lies:

The book Bright Green Lies dismantles the illusion of ‘green’ technology in breathtaking, comprehensive detail, revealing a fantasy that must perish if there is to be any hope of preserving what remains of life on Earth. From solar panels to wind turbines, from LED light bulbs to electric cars, no green fantasy escapes Jensen, Keith, and Wilbert’s revealing peak behind the green curtain. Bright Green Lies is a must-read for all who cherish life on Earth.” —Jeff Gibbs, writer, director, and producer of the film Planet of the Humans.

The film Bright Green Lies investigates the change in focus of the mainstream environmental movement, from its original concern with protecting nature, to its current obsession with powering an unsustainable way of life. The film exposes the lies and fantastical thinking behind the notion that solar, wind, hydro, biomass, or green consumerism will save us from climate change. Tackling the most pressing issues of our time will require us to look beyond the mainstream technological solutions and ask deeper questions about what needs to change.

Bright Green Lies – Trailer from Julia Barnes on Vimeo.

 

With 10-Point Declaration, Global Coalition of Top Energy Experts Says: ‘100% Renewables Is Possible’

With 10-Point Declaration, Global Coalition of Top Energy Experts Says: ‘100% Renewables Is Possible’

“The solutions will not only save consumers money, but also create jobs and provide energy and more international security, while substantially reducing air pollution and climate damage from energy.”

"A world based on 100% renewable energy is possible, and we are able to transform the energy system fast enough to avoid the climate catastrophe."

“A world based on 100% renewable energy is possible, and we are able to transform the energy system fast enough to avoid the climate catastrophe,” said the coalition of researchers. (Photo: Getty Images/Stock Images)

Setting out to rebut defeatist and cynical claims that transitioning the entire global energy system to 100% renewables by 2035 is infeasible, a group of dozens of leading scientists from around the world unveiled a joint declaration Tuesday arguing that such a transformation of the fossil fuel-dependent status quo is not only necessary to avert climate disaster but eminently achievable.

What’s required, argue the 46 signatories of the new 10-point declaration (pdf), is sufficient political will, international coordination, and concrete action on a massive scale to institute a total “re-design of the global energy system.”

“We have lost too much time in our efforts to address global warming and the seven million air pollution deaths that occur each year, by not focusing enough on useful solutions,” said Mark Jacobson, director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program and professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University.

“Fortunately, low-cost 100% clean, renewable energy solutions do exist to solve these problems, as found by over a dozen independent research groups,” added Jacobson, one of the seven original signers of the declaration. “The solutions will not only save consumers money, but also create jobs and provide energy and more international security, while substantially reducing air pollution and climate damage from energy. Policymakers around the world are strongly urged to ensure we implement these solutions over the next 10-15 years.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Dark Side of Solar Power

THE DARK SIDE OF SOLAR POWER

Everybody loves solar power, right? It’s nice, clean, renewable energy that’s available pretty much everywhere the sun shines. If only the panels weren’t so expensive. Even better, solar is now the cheapest form of electricity for companies to build, according to the International Energy Agency. But solar isn’t all apples and sunshine — there’s a dark side you might not know about. Manufacturing solar panels is a dirty process from start to finish. Mining quartz for silicon causes the lung disease silicosis, and the production of solar cells uses a lot of energy, water, and toxic chemicals.

The other issue is that solar cells have a guaranteed life expectancy of about 25 years, with average efficiency losses of 0.5% per year. If replacement begins after 25 years, time is running out for all the panels that were installed during the early 2000s boom. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IREA) projects that by 2050, we’ll be looking at 78 million metric tons of bulky e-waste. The IREA also believe that we’ll be generating six million metric tons of new solar e-waste every year by then, too. Unfortunately, there are hardly any measures in place to recycle solar panels, at least in the US.

How are solar panels made, anyway? And why is it so hard to recycle them? Let’s shed some light on the subject.

HOW IT’S MADE: SOLAR PANELS

Monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels. Images via AZoCleantech and HaHaSmart Solar

Solar panels come in three basic types — monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film. Each cell of a monocrystalline solar panel is made from a single silicon crystal. These are the single malt Scotch of solar panels, and are usually black.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Scientists’ warning to humanity on insect extinctions

Scientists’ warning to humanity on insect extinctions

Preface. Below are excerpts from Cardoso, P., et al. 2020. Scientists’ warning to humanity on insect extinctions. Biological Conservation.

***

Highlights:

  • We are pushing many ecosystems beyond recovery, resulting in insect extinctions.
  • Causes are habitat loss, pollution, invasives, climate change, and over exploitation.
  • We lose biomass, diversity, unique histories, functions, and interaction networks.
  • Insect declines lead to loss of essential, irreplaceable services to humanity.
  • Action to save insect species is urgent, for both ecosystems and human survival.

Abstract

Here we build on the manifesto ‘World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity, issued by the Alliance of World Scientists. As a group of conservation biologists deeply concerned about the decline of insect populations, we here review what we know about the drivers of insect extinctions, their consequences, and how extinctions can negatively impact humanity.

We are causing insect extinctions by driving habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation, use of polluting and harmful substances, the spread of invasive species, global climate change, direct over-exploitation, and co-extinction of species dependent on other species.

With insect extinctions, we lose much more than species. We lose abundance and biomass of insects, diversity across space and time with consequent homogenization, large parts of the tree of life, unique ecological functions and traits, and fundamental parts of extensive networks of biotic interactions. Such losses lead to the decline of key ecosystem services on which humanity depends. From pollination and decomposition, to being resources for new medicines, habitat quality indication and many others, insects provide essential and irreplaceable services.

1. Introduction

Insect extinctions, their drivers, and consequences have received increasing public attention in recent years. Media releases have caught the interest of the general public, and until recently, we were largely unaware that insects could be imperiled to such an extent, and that their loss would have consequences for our own well-being. Fueled by declining numbers from specific regions, concern over the fate of insects has gained traction in the non-scientific realm.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Collecting Clean Water from Polluted Sources with Natural Filtration Systems

Lake
 Image by Hasse Lundqvist from Pixabay

Collecting Clean Water from Polluted Sources with Natural Filtration Systems

Being involved with permaculture helps one develop a mild obsession (and that’s putting it mildly) with water. Long before I was a certified designer, just an avid reader of permaculture texts and articles, and a compulsive watcher of Geoff Lawton YouTube videos, I was looking at landscapes completely differently, with an eye that begged for contour lines and took aim at potential dam sites. I imagined this water feature connected to that one, which fed another downslope when it overflowed across a level sill, the entire countryside dotted with water storage and well-hydrated food forests.

One of the ideas I’ve always been excited about but never quite got my head around was using hard surface runoff from roads and/or polluted areas. It seemed counterintuitive to spend so much time developing natural, chemical-free permaculture sites then funnel tainted water onto them. Of course, in certain environments, any drop of water available is worthy of collection, but still… how could we? Well, I was recently watching some videos from the upcoming earthworks course with Geoff Lawton, and I finally got an answer.

We can set up natural water harvesting and filtration systems to make the most of dirty hard surface runoff, as well as provide us with both clean water and rich compost for our forest gardens.

Soakage Systems

The water catchments in this situation need to centre around soakage rather than storage. In other words, we don’t want to catch the dirty water in dams and allow the pollutants to remain in the water. Instead, we want the water to gather and soak into the landscape, where natural elements like soil and plants can begin to clean it.

China Has Ground To A Halt: “On The Ground” Indicators Confirm Worst-Case Scenario

China Has Ground To A Halt: “On The Ground” Indicators Confirm Worst-Case Scenario

Back on Monday, when analysts and investors were desperately seeking clues whether China has managed to reboot its economy from the 2-week long hiatus following the Lunar New Year/Coronavirus pandemic amid the information blackout unleashed by the communist party in the already opaque country, we pointed out some alternative ways to keep tabs of what is really taking place “on the ground” in China, where Xi Jinping has been urging local businesses and workers to reopen and resume output, while ignoring the risk the viral pandemic poses to them (with potentially catastrophic consequences).

Specifically, Morgan Stanley suggested that real time measurements of Chinese pollution levels would provide a “quick and dirty” (no pun intended) way of observing if any of China’s major metropolises had returned back to normal. What it found was that among some of the top Chinese cities including Guangzhou, Shanghai and Chengdu, a clear pattern was evident – air pollution was only 20-50% of the historical average. As Morgan Stanley concluded, “This could imply that human activities such as traffic and industrial production within/close to those cities are running 50-80% below their potential capacity.”

As a reminder, all this is (or technically, isn’t) taking place as President Xi Jinping on Wednesday sought to send a message that progress had been made in bringing the coronavirus outbreak under control and, for most parts of the country, the focus should be on getting back to business. According to state television, Xi chaired a meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s supreme political body, on the latest developments on the crisis and future policy responses, concluding that there had been “positive changes” with “positive results”.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

River of Trash

RIVER OF TRASH

How Plastic Pollution Is Making Central American Communities Uninhabitable

THE FISHERMEN STAND thigh-deep in the muddy water as our boat pulls up to the shore, grass shushing against the hull. It is a still, cool morning and mist wicks off the river as the sun begins to rise above the trees. Down the beach, a white egret standing in the shallows takes flight in a burst of sound as the fishermen lift their net to reveal its glinting catch. Beside them, half-submerged, a plastic soda bottle noses purposefully past, toward the sea.

As I step onto shore, I notice more bits of plastic lying among the reeds, half-buried in the mud, as well as stained scraps of cloth, bits of packing foam, a single cracked plastic sandal. Just beyond, Guatemala’s Motagua River pours into the Caribbean, carrying with it a daily freight of trash washed out of overcrowded city dumps and unofficial landfills hundreds of miles upstream.

Worldwide, an estimated 80 percent of ocean plastic comes from land as “mismanaged waste.” Indeed, in Guatemala, there are almost no properly managed landfills and virtually no public water treatment plants. The result is a noxious chowder of sewage, industrial and agricultural runoff, and an ever-replenished flotilla of plastic trash, churning out from the river mouth toward the massive Mesoamerican reef, which has long supported rich biodiversity and fishing communities from Cancún to Nicaragua. Now, the beaches here and in neighboring Honduras are regularly buried in artificial tidewrack of toothbrushes, makeup containers, old syringes and bottles of IV fluid, action figures, streamers of plastic film, and foil chip bags.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Empty Sea: What Future for the Blue Economy? A New Book by Ugo Bardi and Ilaria Perissi

The Empty Sea: What Future for the Blue Economy? A New Book by Ugo Bardi and Ilaria Perissi

Proposed cover by Viola, Ilaria’s daughter, 4 years old. 
For this Monday post, I can only put together a very short text. We (myself and Ilaria) have been very busy with the last retouched of the manuscript for our new book that we hope to be able to ship to the publisher (“Editori Riuniti”) maybe tomorrow. It should be available for purchase before Christmas.

We spent a lot of time on this book, and I can tell you that we like it a lot. We hope that the readers will like it, too. I am sorry that this first version is only in Italian, but we are planning a version in English to appear as soon as possible. In the meantime, let me pass to you a text that should appear on the back cover, translated into English. 

What you will learn from this book

  • How humans have been gradually discovering the sea and its resources from the time of our remote ancestors
  • What is the “fisherman’s curse,” why fishermen have always been poor, and they still are!
  • Why humans tend to destroy the resources that make them live: how overexploitation has destroyed many fish stocks and is still destroying them
  • How pollution is affecting the sea: from the great plastic gyre to the rising sea levels
  • Why aquaculture may not be the magic solution to feed the world and what we can expect from the future of fisheries.
  • Can we really extract minerals and energy from the sea? It may be much more difficult than the way it is sometimes described. 
  • What are the limits to resources of the sea and what can we realistic expect for the future?

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Fracking and Shale Drilling Caused Spike in Climate-Warming Methane Pollution, Says New Study

Fracking and Shale Drilling Caused Spike in Climate-Warming Methane Pollution, Says New Study

Flaring in Permian Basin Shale with sunflowers

Climate-changing pollution reached unprecedented levels in 2018. That’s both judged against the last 60 years of modern measurements and against 800,000 years of data culled from ice cores, according to the U.S. government’s State of the Climate report, which was published this week with the American Meteorological Society.

That pollution creates a greenhouse effect that is over 42 percent stronger than it was in 1990, the report added.

And while carbon dioxide hit a new level last year, it isn’t the only climate-changing gas that’s on the rise globally. Pollution of the powerful but short-lived greenhouse gas methane also climbed in 2018, showing an increase “higher than the average growth rate over the past decade,” the report adds.

A new Cornell University study published today in the scientific journal Biogeosciences helps to explain what sparked the surge in those methane concentrations, both here in the U.S. and around the world.

One big culprit: shale drilling and fracking.

“This recent increase in methane is massive,” said Cornell professor Robert Howarth, who authored that study. “It’s globally significant. It’s contributed to some of the increase in global warming we’ve seen and shale gas is a major player.”

The new Cornell paper relies on “chemical fingerprints” of the methane pollution in the Earth’s atmosphere. It describes how methane molecules from shale gas and oil production carry different kinds of carbon than methane from either conventional natural gas drilling or coal beds. The methane molecules from shale drilling contain less of the carbon-13 isotope versus carbon-12, the study suggests, using this ratio as one way to hone in on the source of the natural gas.

That chemical fingerprint led the Cornell researchers to point to the shale industry as the major source of the leaks.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Farm Rot is Eating America Alive

Farm Rot is Eating America Alive

Field Corn, southern Indiana. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

American politics covers up the bleeding of nature

Listen to the Democratic presidential candidates Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They promise a more democratic, equal, just, compassionate and civilized America. But the statistics they cite are numbing. Millions of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Additional millions have no medical insurance. Three billionaires own as much as 150 million Americans. Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless.

How different is this picture from the picture of France on the eve of the French Revolution? Inequality alone says not much. In contrast to the French, we “elected” king Trump. He owns several Versailles.

This distressing political reality in 2019 America is riddled with the bullets of madmen. Young Americans, desperate for meaning and a future, arm themselves for a minute in the TV Sun. They hear Trump badmouthing the non-white immigrants from Mexico and Central America and resort to the mayhem of El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio: killing innocent Americans and immigrants, the anger of the killers finding a murderous outlet.

In this condition of domestic upheaval, Americans have no time or interest for anything else. They are obsessed with survival. They see Congress and the Supreme Court and the White House taking care of the billionaire class, as Senator Sanders rightly defines the tiny minority of wealth and power behind the broken government in Washington, DC.

Meanwhile, Trump is like an extraterrestrial despot visiting Washington, DC, in order to keep the White House in perpetual chaos, play golf in his exclusive resort in Florida, and tweet his orders to the world.

This political reality could be out of a fictional best seller, but it is not. It dazzles, confuses, and angers Americans. Trivia becomes king.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Going 100% renewable power means a lot of dirty mining

Going 100% renewable power means a lot of dirty mining

Preface. Everyone talks about oil spills, but what about the dirty mining that will have a huge polluting footprint on the earth, and potentially destroy the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery among other side-effects? Renewables aren’t cleaner and greener than fossils, and require a hell of a lot of fossils to mine the ore, deliver it to a crusher, blast furnace, and fabrication, all accomplished with fossils. 

***

Sadasivam, N. 2019. Report: Going 100% renewable power means a lot of dirty mining. Grist.org

For more than a decade, indigenous communities in Alaska have been fighting to prevent the mining of copper and gold at Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery and a crucial source of sustenance. The proposed mine, blocked under the Obama administration but inching forward under the Trump administration, has been billed by proponents as necessary to meet the growing demand for copper, which is used in wind turbines, batteries, and solar panels. Similar stories are playing out in Norway, where the Sámi community is fighting a copper mine, and in Papua New Guinea, where a company has been mining the seabed for gold and copper.

Weighing those trade-offs — between supporting mining in environmentally sensitive areas and sourcing metals needed to power renewables — is likely to become more common if countries continue generating more renewable energy. That’s according to a report out Wednesday from researchers at the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia. The report, commissioned by the environmental organization Earthworks, finds that demand for metals such as copper, lithium and cobalt would skyrocket if countries around the world try to get their electric grids and transportation systems fully powered by renewable energy by 2050. Consequently, a rush to meet that demand could lead to more mining in countries with lax environmental and safety regulations and weak protections for workers.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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